CHESTER, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - The Chester City Council voted Monday to pass a citywide ordinance requiring face masks to be worn in public.
The decision follows South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s June 24 statement that cities and counties have the authority under Home Rule to require residents to wear face masks while out in public.
The ordinance will apply only within the limits of the city of Chester. Face masks will be required in public places due to the increase in cases of COVID-19.
All employees of Chester’s public establishments will be required by their employers to wear face coverings while having face-to-face interactions. Religious establishments will be exempt, though wearing a mask is still encouraged.
Councilwoman Angela Douglas suggested imposing a $25 fine for people who did not comply. Mayor Wanda Stringfellow agreed to add this measure. The city adminstrator will send out notices to businesses before the ordinance goes into effect.
Councilman William “Budda” Killian was concerned about residents who could not afford masks.
Stringfellow suggested a measure used in Columbia where police carry extra masks, which can be handed out to avoid fines.
Douglas said the Chester Police Department has about 100 handmade masks for elderly community members. They will be handing them out this week.
During the meeting, City Administrator Stephanie Jackson said she will make an effort to reach out to local business owners and alert them of the ordinance.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control currently shows Chester County’s reported cases of the coronavirus at 172. However, it reports the number of estimated cases at 1,057.
“These numbers scare me, how they’re spiking,” Stringfellow said during Monday’s meeting.
Coronavirus patients in Chester County are being treated at other nearby hospitals because Chester Medical Center closed its inpatient services in April. For this reason, SCDHEC currently reports that Chester County has no hospital bed availability.
City of Chester Councilwoman Angela Douglas said the order was “definitely necessary.”
“I hope it won’t hurt businesses that are already struggling to open,” Stuart said, “But I understand it.”
Douglas said she hoped the city ordinance would nudge the county in the right direction. The city of Chester is only 3.3 square miles within 587-square-mile Chester County, she said.
The city of Lancaster is considering measures of its own. Lancaster City Council has a special called meeting at 7 p.m. June 30 to discuss mandated face coverings.
The agenda shows an item “strongly encouraging all residents to perform their patriotic duty by wearing face coverings in public and to urge the governor of the State of South Carolina to take the appropriate actions in mandating face coverings.”
“We need to do our best to protect ourselves and others,” she told the Herald. This ordinance will give people the best tools to keep themselves safe, she said.